Happy release day to ‘Across The Ice’!

Happy October everyone! And a very happy book birthday to Dana Fraedrich and her latest release, Across the Ice!

Some of you may remember me reviewing Dana’s debut Out of the Shadows a couple of years ago. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Dana and later reviewed her standalone set in the Broken Gears universe, Raven’s Cry. So you could say I have been a champion of Dana’s writing from the beginning.

I was therefore delighted recently when Dana contacted me and asked me to be a member of her ARC team for her latest release, the conclusion to the Broken Gears trilogy! I’ll have a review coming your way soon but if you’re interested in reading the book for yourself, it’s available from today!

Look how good they look together:-

 

I don’t want to share the full blurb for this final book as it has spoilers for the previous instalments, but this bit is safe to show you:-

Across the Ice is the thrilling conclusion to Lenore’s storyline in the captivating Broken Gears YA steampunk fantasy series. For fans of Gail Carriger, Namoi Novik, and Garth Nix. If you like smart heroines, forgotten magic, and rich Victorian settings, then you’ll love Dana Fraedrich’s intriguing adventure.

So yes, if you enjoy steampunk books, you should definitely consider supporting this lovely author! And look out for my full series review soon!

Happy book birthday, Dana!


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Dana Fraedrich is an independent author, dog lover, and self-professed geek. Even from a young age, she enjoyed writing down the stories that she imagined in her mind. Born and raised in Virginia, she earned her BFA from Roanoke College and is now carving out her own happily ever after in Nashville, TN with her husband and two dogs. Dana is always writing; more books are on the way!

‘Raven’s Cry’ spoiler-free review!

Happy book birthday to Dana Fraedrich and Raven’s Cry! A standalone set in the Broken Gears universe, this reimagining of Swan Lake is fab! Some of you may remember that I read the first book in Fraedrich’s series at the end of last year and then had the pleasure of interviewing her, so I was thrilled when she approached me again to ask if I would like to read an ARC of her latest book!

 

What the book is about…

A dark retelling of Swan Lake ~ Calandra is happiest when she’s surrounded by quiet, joined only by a book and a cup of tea, never around people and their insufferable need to make small talk. When Nicodemus, a magus with immense power, joins the royal court of Invarnis, Calandra’s life will change forever. As a terrible curse pursues her through the centuries, Calandra will have to overcome captivity, war, and loss.

In this standalone installment, set in Dana Fraedrich’s Broken Gears universe, readers will join Calandra in her battle for freedom, hope, and healing.

 

What I thought of it…

Having read Out of the Shadows at the end of last year, I was already familiar with the wonderful world Fraedrich has created. If possible, I loved it even more in this new standalone than in the first instalment. If you like fantasy creatures, then this is definitely a series to check out – filled to the brim with magi, dragons, vampyres and other magical beings, there is something for everyone here!

I’m delighted to say that the writing in this book is even BETTER than in Out of the Shadows (not that that was by any means bad!) I could really see an improvement! Fraedrich’s writing has become even more refined and it was an absolute pleasure to read. As I already mentioned, I loved the world-building in this book even more than the one I previously read and the descriptions were so cinematic!

I loved the protagonist Callandra’s character development; she starts out as a shy introvert but gradually gets a little bit more spice about her and ends up being a total badass. Her story is quite tragic but her handling of it felt realistic, and I really sympathised with her. I also really liked the supporting characters, though they didn’t always feel as fleshed-out as the MC.

It is important to emphasise that readers do not need to have tried the other books in the Broken Gears series; Raven’s Cry can be read as a standalone. However, I do think there is an extra level of depth that will be apparent to readers who have read Out of the Shadows. I had such an OMG moment when I worked out how the books were connected! It was very, very cool and really showed Fraedrich’s talent and the amount of work she has put into creating her fictional world.

My final word is a little bit of a fangirl moment… I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements!! I always make a point of reading the acknowledgements because it’s lovely to gain an insight into the author’s life – imagine my delight when Dana personally thanked me! Literally the coolest thing ever. It made my heart do a happy dance and reiterated what I already knew – which is that the author is not only a talented writer but a lovely human being.

Overall, I definitely recommend this one, even if you have never read Out of the Shadows. And you don’t need to know much about the plot of the original Swan Lake; while this is a retelling, the story stands up strongly in its own right.

 

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(All book covers taken from Goodreads)

 

Huge thanks to Dana Fraedrich for sending me an e-ARC of this one – happy book birthday Dana!

‘The Dollmaker of Krakow’ spoiler-free review!

“People react strangely to things that are different.”

R. M. Romero, The Dollmaker of Kraków

 

Hello everyone! Today I’m reviewing The Dollmaker of Kraków, a debut novel from R. M. Romero which came out in September 2017. I wasn’t able to get a copy right away but my amazing bestie gifted me it for Christmas! And let me tell you: I am already fairly sure that this will make it into my favourites list for this year! It was THAT good. Before I start flailing about how beautiful this book is, have a gander at what it’s about:-

 

Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. But when a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Kraków, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past.

The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina’s courageous and compassionate manner lead him to smile and to even befriend a violin-playing father and his daughter–that is, once the Dollmaker gets over the shock of realizing a doll is speaking to him.

But their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them, no matter what the risks.

 

 

I knew as soon as I read that blurb that this was MY KIND OF BOOK. But I wasn’t prepared for how utterly beautiful and heart-breaking it would be. The Dollmaker of Kraków shattered my heart into a million pieces and I can’t adequately express how much I love it.

This book is beautifully written and contains some of the most powerful and moving imagery I have ever come across. Like, reducing me to a puddle of tears powerful. I couldn’t take my eyes from the pages, even though I knew I was going to become an absolute mess. Thank goodness I read this at home because ugly crying in public is never fun.

I absolutely loved the parallels between Kraków and the Land of the Dolls, and in my opinion they made an already fantastic story even stronger. The book was interspersed with snippets of story detailing Karolina’s time in the Land of the Dolls and I thought this was such a clever plot device that would particularly endear the story to younger readers.

Karolina and the Dollmaker were both so precious and pure, and some of their exchanges gave me ALL THE FEELS. I loved Karolina’s innocence even if it did increase my heartbreak tenfold. I was literally shedding tears on behalf of a fictional doll and I’m not ashamed of it in the slightest.

This is an incredible debut that is completely magical and perfect for readers of all ages.

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Has anyone else read this one? Or is it on your TBR? I want everyone to read it!!

 

Interview with Dana Fraedrich!

I recently read Out of the Shadows by Dana Fraedrich (which incidentally turned out to be my 100th book of the year!) It is a steampunk adventure following feisty heroine Lenore and a fantastic cast of characters. You can check out my spoiler-free review here.

Dana was kind enough to agree to an interview which I’m delighted to be presenting to you now! Make sure you read right to the end for an exclusive reveal… 😉

 

Hi Dana, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview! I really enjoyed Out of the Shadows and it’s a pleasure to have you on my blog.

Thank you so much for having me, Alex.  It’s an absolute pleasure. 🙂

For readers who don’t know you from the ‘bookstagram’ community, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Sure thing! I grew up in Virginia but live in Nashville, TN now, which is a little funny because I have no musical talent whatsoever.  Not that it stops me from singing very loudly (and very badly) in the shower, car, grocery store, etc.  I’ve always written.  Pretty much as soon as I could read, I started writing down whatever little stories came into my head, and writing assignments were always my favorite in school.  I still have a lot of my old pieces too, though I think only one will ever see the light of day…after I do a lot of work on it.  I wrote it over ten years ago, so it’ll need a lot of editing.  Besides that, I enjoy video games (Skyrim and Dragon Age FTW!), cooking, and reading.

When did you decide to start writing Out of the Shadows and why?

I actually started writing Out of the Shadows as a lark. I wanted to see if I could write a steampunk story.  I never imagined it would grab me like it did.  I adore that world and the characters now!  I finished the first draft in under a year.  Given that I wasn’t writing regularly back then and only did it whenever the mood struck, that was pretty impressive for me.

How would you describe your writing process?

I think I write in layers, if that makes sense.  The first draft is always a rough skeleton of what I really want to end up with.  Then I go through and start refining details and setting scenes—I always think of action and dialogue before settings.  I plump this or pare that down.  When I get to about the third or fourth draft (it’s hard to keep track), I do all the fiddly work of searching for problem words like “very” and “that” and trying to refine it.  Only after that do I send it to my editor.

The steampunk elements in Out of the Shadows are particularly detailed and fascinating to read about. Did you have to do a lot of research?

Sort of? See, my dad is an engineer, so I grew up learning about how things fit together and work.  If I had a question about how a machine functions, I’d ask him first.  Anything that had to do with chemical reactions, though, I had to research those.  That made for a really unsettling browser history, especially when it came to gunpowder and poisons.

If you absolutely HAD to choose, which of your characters would you say is your favourite and why?

Ugh, this is like choosing between children.  Haha.  My answer would probably change day to day, but right now I have to say Lowell Thorne.  He has such a beautiful heart, and he’s so clever and fun to write.  He’s featured more in Into the Fire and the new forthcoming novella, so I’m excited for people to get to know him better.

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Who are some of your favourite authors?

Oh my gosh, there are so many amazing ones. Okay, Robin McKinley is my all time favorite.  If I ever met her, I’d probably just giggle uncontrollably.  Also, JK Rowling for her world building and Chris Wooding for action scenes.

Do you have any hobbies that you use to switch off and unwind when you’re not writing?

Playing video games always helps me. Everything I play is pretty immersive, so I can’t think about writing or problems or whatever when I’m busy talking to NPCs and fighting baddies.

Are there any aspects of your work that you find particularly difficult or challenging?

This might sound kind of unbelievable, but I never really dealt with proper insecurity before I started pursuing my career as a writer. I’ve always been pretty confident and good at adapting to general life stuff, but publishing my writing introduced me to a whole new world of self-doubt.  You go into these spirals of “Actually, I don’t know if I’m any good at this…like, at all” and “Is this entire story terrible?  Because I really can’t tell anymore.”  Because I’ve never had to develop coping mechanisms for the kind of deep, soul-wrenching insecurity that comes from putting your passion out there for the world to see, it feels like I’m flailing at the bottom of a pit when it hits me.  I still struggle with regaining objectivity when I start slipping down that path, but I’ve never been good at sitting still.  Thankfully, so far in this journey, when I’ve fallen prey to dark thoughts, the urge to move and do something—whether it’s going to someone I trust for encouragement or just pushing forward even if I’m not certain what I’m doing—has outweighed my fear.

I’m especially eager to read your second book, Into the Fire. For those readers who might not know what it’s about, can you tantalise us with anything specific (but non-spoilery!)?

I’d be happy to! In Into the Fire, readers get to explore a part of Invarnis we haven’t seen before.  Of course, all the loose ends from Out of the Shadows cause trouble for everyone.  I found myself really challenging my characters in this second book.  They’re in unfamiliar, disadvantageous, painful, and/or dangerous situations wherein they have to make difficult choices.  Not gonna lie, my heart hurt for my characters as I was writing this book.

Can you give us any hints about projects you currently have in the works?

My current WIP is a standalone story set in the Broken Gears universe. In it, readers will see the history of Invarnis and how we got to the current point in its history.  A lot of secrets will be revealed in the book, and some familiar side characters will get spotlight roles.  I plan on releasing it during the first half of 2018.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I haven’t included?

I do a lot of live events like book festivals and author signings because I love meeting people and geeking out about books. If any organizers/bookstore owners/etc. out there would like to have me attend their event, drop me a line on my website.  And speaking of book festivals…Alex, I didn’t tell you this was coming.  I haven’t announced this anywhere just yet, so what better place than here?  I am very excited to let you all know I will have at table at BookCon in New York City this June.  I’ll be at booth #1140, so feel free to come by and say hi.  I met some amazing people there last year and cannot wait to go back!

 

Well, I absolutely loved finding out more about Dana! It’s great to remember that those authors are real people 😉 If you are interested in finding out even more or following any of Dana’s social media accounts, I have included some handy links below.

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Website and Blog: http://www.wordsbydana.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danafraedrich/

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Dana-Fraedrich/e/B008QB3QXI

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6494889.Dana_Fraedrich

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordsbydana/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanaFraedrich

 

And there you have it! I hope you all enjoyed reading this interview – huge thanks to Dana for giving up her time for it! If anyone goes on to read Out of the Shadows, be sure to let me know so we can chat about it!

‘Out of the Shadows’ spoiler-free review!

When author Dana Fraedrich approached me recently and asked if I would be interested in reading her debut novel Out of the Shadows, I was thrilled! I had been looking for more steampunk reads after falling in love with Gail Carriger’s books a few years ago and, I have to say, this is the perfect book for readers who are slightly nervous of this genre; the attention-to-detail is meticulous but not overwhelming! Before I start reviewing, here’s what the book is about:

 

When the Allens rescue Lenore from certain torment, she’s offered a new life, a life that can save her from the underworld of crime in which she’s forced to live. The universe is keeping score, however, and Lenore isn’t the only one caught in this web of debt. Can she truly escape her past when it comes to find her or will she be drawn back into the darkness?

Homeless, orphaned, living in secret as a thief–Lenore Crowley just wants to survive, but the city of Springhaven has no sympathy for cases such as hers. She chose her path, and the consequences are hers alone. Being caught would mean certain death; her odds of survival are beginning to look bleak. When she meets the Allens, she’s offered a new life. In a world where debts and oaths carry very real weight, however, this second chance comes at a price. Lives entangle, and Lenore soon find that her secrets aren’t so secret. Someone is looking for her, someone who knows who she really is. One wrong move and everything around her might fall.

Fans of Gail Carriger, Garth Nix, and Marie Brennan will delight as this new world unfolds for them. A multi-layered realm of history, subterfuge, colorful characters, potential, and lost magic and technology promises to entrance readers of all ages.

 

First of all, I want to clarify that the length of time it took me to read this book is by no means a reflection of its quality! Out of the Shadows is a very enjoyable read and, as I said, provides the perfect entrance into the world of steampunk. Dana’s writing style works perfectly for the genre and I really liked her attention to detail. The book was clearly very well-researched and I was often impressed by the level of knowledge displayed on certain topics. I was also really happy to see Dana correctly use the phrase “couldn’t care less” – (a minor point, I know, but I hate seeing “could care less”; it makes no sense!!)

Lenore is a feisty heroine with lots of sass, so obviously that means I loved her. I wanted to join in her adventures! She is a strong-willed woman who fights for her rights and doesn’t let anyone belittle her, which I think is a fantastic message for the book to convey. We might not be living in the Victorian times but there are definitely still some men out there who act like pigs!!

The reason I refrained from giving this book a 5-star rating is because, as other reviewers on Goodreads have pointed out, the book does take a while to get going. However, I think this was due to the fantastic world-building! Dana has created a highly detailed world that feels completely believable and really drew me in. I did feel that Lenore was a little too accepting of certain things at first (I can’t really say which things without spoilers!) But maybe that’s me being naïve or showing my lack of familiarity with the steampunk genre?

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read and the ending has me really looking forward to reading the second book, Into the Fire.

Also, I will be interviewing Dana Fraedrich in the near future so keep yours eyes open for that!

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Has anyone else read this one? What other steampunk books can you recommend to me?